E y e s   o n   t h e   F o r e s t 
S E P T E M B E R   2 0 1 5 

eyes in the forest

by Ruth Linsky

Each year, as the rains cease and the long, hot, dry days pile up on top of each other like a pile of kindling, OFI faces one of the most difficult challenges to protecting orangutans and their forest habitat: the fires.
This year is no exception. The fires are here and they are bad. In fact, the fires are exceptionally bad this year.
The weather forecasters have been predicting a record-breaking El Nino season for the last few years.  On the west coast of the United States, El Nino is known as the bringer of heavy, unexpected rains. In Borneo, El Nino has the opposite effect. It brings parched, arid, and exceptional droughts to the island. As the skies around Pasir Panjang and the Orangutan Legacy Forest are increasingly filled with smoke, it seems El Nino has arrived in all its power. The fires are not limited. The whole of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) is smothered in smoke.

The haze is pervasive. The smoke is so thick it blocks out the sun. Morning fog does not fade away and midday darkness has been the norm for weeks now. It has rained only two days in the last six weeks. The little rain that did come was sparse and fleeting. It was not enough to dampen the soil or penetrate the peat that lies beneath much of the forest in Borneo, including a large area of OFI's Orangutan Legacy Forest. It is the peat that makes fighting fires here exceptionally difficult. Peat soil is soft and our staff's feet sink as they try to walk; in some places, they are pulled in to their knees. It is a challenge to avoid falling or stepping in areas that are still hot from recent blazes.  Carrying hoses and fire-fighting supplies across this peat soil to get them where they're needed is dangerous. Not to mention, peat soil itself is flammable. In a peat swamp forest, it is not only the plants and trees that burn: the ground itself can go up in flames! As the peat may be a few meters deep, embers remain underground for days after we put out the flames above the ground. The embers slowly creep under the ground, traveling to other areas, and setting them aflame. 

Each day OFI's firefighting team assess the situation. Team members are deployed to the areas with the most urgent need. Generators, hoses, pumps, drinking water and gasoline are stacked into trucks and delivered to the staff already in the field. Once they arrive in the field, these supplies often have to be carried by foot to the site of the fire. In the challenging conditions, it can take hours to cross several kilometers to reach the fires. Access to these remote forest fire areas is further complicated as they are surrounded by degraded and abandoned mining areas pitted with sand and dangerous sink holes. Our drivers are constantly searching for new and better trails and access points to get people and supplies to where they need to be but sometimes it's impossible to utilize vehicles and firefighters have to simply walk, carrying supplies on their backs. 

In this Issue

Breaking News: 2015 Fire Season

Surgery Report on "Selina", a Rescued Sun Bear Cub

Orangutan of the Month
Dr. Birutė Mary Galdikas is on Instagram!
Follow @drbirute on Instagram and
Twitter for the latest news from the field!
October 10th
Dr. Galdikas will be giving a speech at the Japan Wildlife Center in Tokyo, Japan


October 24th

"Orangutans: Rainforest, Rescue, and Rehabilitation"

A fundraising cocktail party will be held in Medford, New Jersey

Exciting EcoTour News!
Due to a cancellation there are two spots available on the November 10th EcoTour!

For more information visit:
Looking for more Palm Oil Free products?

 10% of all proceeds are being donated to OFI!
News from the Field 
By Dr Romain Pizzi and Dr Kirsty Officer 
OFI Veterinarian Dr Popowati assessing Selina before the surgery
When "Selina" a female sun bear cub, whose mother was probably killed in January 2014, and who was handed over to OFI in late 2014, arrived it was immediately apparent she had extreme difficulty passing feces as well as suffering from notable pain because of this. OFI was informed that previous to her arrival at the OFI Care Center, Selina had suffered trauma to her pelvis that likely had resulted from fractures of the pelvic girdle and had led to serious pelvic deformity when these fractures eventually healed. This trauma caused a notable narrowing of the pelvic canal, which made it extremely difficult for Selina to pass feces. Unfortunately, this chronic obstruction caused permanent damage to her large intestine, resulting in a "megacolon". A "megacolon" occurs when the large intestine becomes permanently dilated 
and unable to contract. The accumulating feces cause pain by further distending the already enlarged large intestine, and the large number of bacteria that build up make animals feel chronically ill and nauseous. As seen in these cases with other species, Selina has
Selina's X-ray from August 11th showing her painful "megacolon"
notably stunted growth for a sun bear cub of her age due to her condition. At 20 months of age, she resembles a cub of six months of age.

While her symptoms were managed as best possible medically with laxatives, medication, and a special diet after her arrival at the OFI Care Center in late 2014, she still had a very poor quality of life, and a long-term solution was needed. Experienced bear veterinarian Dr Kirsty Officer and specialist wildlife veterinary surgeon Dr Romain Pizzi made a trip to the OCCQ to treat Selina. Selina was briefly anaesthetised on the 11th August, 2015 for a detailed examination of her pelvis and x-rays to assess her current condition and plan her surgery. She weighed 10kg. She was then anaesthetised on the 13th August and surgery performed to relieve the obstruction and to remove the large section of abnormal damaged large intestine. Selina did well immediately after surgery, and appears bright, playful and is eating, with no apparent complications. Her wound is healing well.
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